Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area
The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact (August 2013)
Funny how this group only measures the negative impacts of marijuana legalization, without looking at any of the positives — like a decrease in the suicide rate or the number of chronic pain patients who have reduced their use of opioids or no longer take them. Or maybe even the number of cancer patients who live longer because of cannabis, and the amount of people who are preventing cancer or Alzheimer’s with cannabis use.
This is the first report and foundational for future reports. It is divided into six sections with each providing data on the impact of legalization prior to and during the creation of the medical marijuana industry in Colorado. Generally, except for diversion of Colorado marijuana, there is limited data for 2012 and 2013…
This section provides information on driving fatalities involving drivers testing positive for marijuana. The data comparison will be from 2006 through 2011. Data for 2012, and partial year 2013, was not available for this report. The information compares what will be referred to as the early medical marijuana era (2006 – 2008) and the medical marijuana expansion era (2009 – 2011) in Colorado…
• Traffic fatalities in Colorado decreased 16 percent, from 2006 to 2011, which is consistent with national trends. During the same six years in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for just marijuana increased 114 percent.
Like the statistics that allegedly show the number of overdoses involving opioids, when you look at the word “involving” or “related,” it means you’re not looking at the whole picture.
• In 2006 in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for marijuana represented 5 percent of the total traffic fatalities. By 2011, that percent more than doubled to 13 percent.
Compared to the number of traffic fatalities that involve alcohol, 13% for cannabis is very low. And you can’t just look at alcohol and marijuana — where’s the information for all the prescription drugs that America takes? I’m not only talking about pain and anti-anxiety medications, as all prescription drugs have some effect on a person’s driving ability.
• In 2006, drivers testing positive for marijuana were involved in 28 percent of fatal vehicle crashes involving drugs. By 2011 that number had increased to 56 percent.
• From 2006 – 2011, drivers testing positive for marijuana involved in fatal vehicle crashes more than doubled in those six years.
You can look at percentages like this, or you can look at the overall percentages for marijuana and driving, which are small compared to other drugs.
These statistics are from the Colorado Department of Transportation Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which says that, “Data only includes drivers who were tested for drugs and results that were reported to CDOT.”
This report is from 2013, but here is one from 2014 from the Colorado Department of Transportation:
Click to access Full%20Prob%20ID_2014.FINAL_.pdf
In 2012, the total number of motor vehicle fatalities in Colorado increased for the first time in six years, after steadily declining between 2007 and 2011. There were 472 motor vehicle fatalities in 2012, a 5.6 percent increase in fatalities from 2011. The increase in motor vehicle fatalities was not unique to Colorado, as the United States overall experienced a 3.3 percent increase in motor vehicle fatalities from 2011 to 2012.
In order to reach the goals set forth in the Colorado Department of Transportation’s 2014 Integrated Safety Plan, it is imperative to stop the recent increases in fatalities and then once again decrease fatalities. Data from 2012 indicate that Colorado has the following three key problem areas:
• Speeding-related fatalities;
• Unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities; and
• Alcohol impaired driver fatalities.
Driving while impaired by marijuana: In 2013, voters approved a state constitutional amendment legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for people at least 21 years old in Colorado. Since recreational marijuana sales began January 1, 2014, Coloradans are concerned about the impacts of driving while impaired by drugs. While there is minimal data on driving while impaired by drugs available to present in this report, and none specific to marijuana, the Colorado Department of Transportation is actively monitoring this issue…
Does “drugs” only include marijuana? Sounds like discrimination to me.
The core issue for researchers and law enforcement alike is the lack of hard data to identify cannabis-impaired drivers, as opposed to alcohol-induced impairment, during highway stops. To date, the only method is by blood analysis carried out by a toxicology lab—either by court order or through a coroner’s office. That means that most research on cannabis as a contributing cause of fatal crashes is based on post-mortem examination.
A post-mortem examination will not show that a driver was impaired by marijuana. In fact, a blood test doesn’t show that either, considering that marijuana stays in your system, stored in your fat cells, for weeks or months after consumption. But just because it stays in your system, that doesn’t mean you’re impaired or that it has any kind of negative effect. From what I’ve read, it appears that there are actually quite a number of benefits when marijuana stays in your system past the time of consumption, like anti-inflammatory effects and maybe even as a preventative for Alzheimer’s and the growth of tumors.
According to Trooper Nate Reid of the Colorado State Patrol Media and Education office, who took The Mountain Times’ call, the use of saliva strips is now being tested. In the meantime, he stated, all officers receive training to detect drug use by watching for behavioral cues.
Again, the amount of THC that shows up in one of these tests will not prove one way or another whether the driver was impaired by marijuana. A high-THC strain would impair a novice user, but not a chronic pain patient. Also consider that the amount of CBDs in whichever strain is used can alter (decrease) the effect of the THC, and I’m sure these tests will only show THC levels, not CBD levels.
Amy Ford of the Colorado Department of Transportation, acknowledged the “challenge related to data collection,” in a recent phone interview with The Mountain Times, saying that police identification of marijuana-related causes is imprecise, and that this is now a “huge priority” for the state. One key goal for the Colorado State Patrol is to increase the number of DRE’s to cover the state…
I’d say that “imprecise” is an understatement.